Mental Health Stigmas – What Can we do to Change the Stigma?
I never want to repeat a blog post, so from time to time, I go through past blog posts. I realized I have talked recently about the stigma that surrounds mental health. What I talk about is that there is a responsibility that mental health bloggers face. It up to us in the mental illness community writing blogs to fight the stigma.
What does that mean?
It means showing people that it is not “weird” or “wrong” to have a mental illness. When I see a person on a television show portraying a mental illness its always as a crazy person. The people we see on the news that shoot up a movie theater, they’re still labeled as crazy. But to me, that doesn’t represent those of us in this struggle. We have to show the real sides of mental illness and offer what we have learned through any means we can. For me, it is writing this blog, my memoir, and my screenplay.
Being Bipolar is who I am, and it is here that I find my strength to fight.
We do this through sharing our experiences with the world. When we make what we have been through relatable to a reasonable person it changes their perspective. Even better is when we can reach those of us who are not sure about what their new diagnosis means. Reaching those who are struggling to fight unknown depression is the ultimate goal. The beginning of a mental illness journey can see he wrought with misinformation.
What mental health stigma’s do is damage to those trying to seeking help. As human beings, it is natural for us to be afraid of what we don’t understand. It is the scariest thing to think that depression has taken over your life. In my own experience, I always thought depression meant I was outside of ordinary people. I was never really healthy. I see it a lot of the people that write to me. The most common thing I get is this.
“James, I was so afraid of what I am living through that I have shut myself off to the world. It‘s easier sometimes to hide. But your blog has given me hope.”
It saddens me because I was like that in the beginning and for many of the years that followed. I was a part of the problem because I gave into the fear. In the first three years of my diagnosis, I wouldn’t even admit to myself that there was something wrong with me. I was afraid of the “crazy” label that I saw so often for people that have a mental illness. (This will be the only time I will use crazy in that context.)
The truth is, you’re not crazy. Yes, there is a likelihood that something wrong with you. But, that’s not a bad thing. Your brain works differently than healthy people. It‘s a fact, but I see it now as the reason why I am here today. My mind doesn’t work right, but I am still a writer. Don’t let people tell you that it is wrong to have a mental illness.
An average person could never understand. When I would go from the deepest and darkest depression one day, to completely manic the next day. It‘s not normal. At the same time, it is who I am. They would never be able to tell me how it feels to be Bipolar. When you live it every day, it gives you insight.
There are the experts and what would we do without them? It clear that we need them in our lives. I can attest to what having a therapist has done in my life. But the role of a therapist or a psychiatrist is to help the individual, not the stigma. They can help you be less afraid to tell your story, but can they fight the stigma like we could? I really believe it is up to us to change the mind of the world.
It makes me angry when someone tells a person with a mental illness to “get over it.” It always made me feel down. If it’s was possible to turn off my depression I would do it in a heartbeat. I would spend days or weeks in bed and feel the world judging me. It wrong for me to feel that way, but being Bipolar felt like a curse. I will tell you now that it’s not.
It was worse as a teenager for me. I hid my depression cycles from everyone with masks and fake smiles. I went through the motions of life so much as a teenager that it became the standard in my life. My depression got worse because, when I would come out of a depression cycle I thought I was normal again. I was never normal. If I had realized that and got help as a teen, I could have gotten better sooner.
I hope it doesn’t seem as if I regret my life. It‘s quite the opposite. What I mean when I say I could have gotten better sooner, this is what I mean. It was three years before I said: “I am Bipolar and I need to do something about it.”
It was another two or three years before I started to move on with my life. I went back to school and sought help with a therapist. It was still two years ago before I could talk about my issues. It was a slow process to get to what has become my blog. My mental health only started to get to a reasonable level the last two years. I have to wade through years of not working on my issues.
It took me years of reflection to get here, a right place with my anxiety and depression. I went through three terrible years of non-stop depression and anxiety before I made changes in my attitude. I was so afraid of what being Bipolar meant to the outside world that it made things worse. I gave into the fear of being Bipolar for so long.
I rejected help for so many years that by the time I got my reality check I had so many issues. It’s that fear that I often look at to the reasons why my social anxiety and depression spirals every winter. I put myself through so much not believing in the medication prescribed to me. I thought my doctors were wrong.
Now I fight every day. To educate ordinary people with my experiences. I live to help others like me find peace in this world of chaos. I tell people every day to keep fighting. That the most important thing is to seek help and believe in that help.
We start a discussion so that one day a young teenager or a young adult will never have the label. That horrible label of being crazy. Or the label that having a mental illness is a “pre-existing condition.” We have to fight for the world to recognize that mental illnesses are a real thing.
My last point in this overly long blog post is this. We have to write for the future people coming into the mental illness community. We fight the good fight. Share our experiences with one another and with the world. We will get to a point where the stigma of having a mental illness will never even exist. People will get the help they need without fear.
Always Keep Fighting.
Please Help me Publish my Memoir
I have finished the first draft of my memoir “The Bipolar Writer,” and I have decided to go down the self-publishing route. If you can donate anything towards my goal, it would mean the world to me. Those that give will get a special mention in my memoir on a page dedicated to those that made my memoir possible. Thank you in advance!